Reading Time: 3 minutes

O2 and the European Space Agency will be supporting Project Darwin, an ambitious four year trial programme designed to pave the way for next-generation connectivity solutions for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).

The project aims to test new technology and end-to-end connectivity solutions including 5G and satellite communications to ultimately create a new CAV industry vertical.

Based in the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire, Project Darwin will bring together Oxford and Glasgow Universities, Spanish satellite operator Hispasat, start-ups specialised in self-driving mobility solutions and Darwin Innovation Group Oxford – a cutting edge innovation company connecting terrestrial and satellite communications.

From July 2019, the high-level design and definition phase will begin at Harwell to explore key connected vehicle and Vehicle-SIM platforms as well as AI neural network integration. From 2020 the project hopes to be in position to showcase the first proof of concepts.

O2 research last year found that CAVs are expected to generate unprecedented levels of data – 4TB per hour – highlighting the need for projects such as these to explore next generation connectivity solutions.

As part of Project Darwin, an ARTES ‘Partner Study’ programme will be conducted with UK government support (first phase €2.2m) to help define all the different elements needed to deliver the larger programme. The future of mobility is one of the UK government’s Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges and the UK Space Agency is working closely with Darwin and Telefonica to support this ambition in the UK.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “Our world-beating space and auto industries have a proven track record in driving forward pioneering research, while the UK’s satellite services are constantly enhancing services such as the quality of our communications, healthcare and environmental monitoring. This new partnership between Government and industry will build on our world-leading reputation in the development and manufacture of satellites even further, to bring together two of the UK’s great strengths – automotive and space. Putting us at the forefront of the next generation of self-driving cars of tomorrow – a key ambition in our modern Industrial Strategy.”

Derek McManus, COO at O2 said: “Project Darwin is an important piece of the connected and autonomous vehicle puzzle. The research taking place at Harwell during the next four years will be vital in the creation of new transport ecosystems for the UK public and the the companies that will offer these services. Our approach to this project is part of our wider strategy to collaborate with British businesses, partners and start-ups to unlock the possibilities of 5G for customers and wider UK economy.”

Catherine Mealing-Jones, Director of Growth, UK Space Agency said: “Autonomous vehicles need robust, high-speed mobile data connections to operate effectively. Building the technology to link them to telecoms satellites will allow you to take your car wherever you want to go, and not just to areas with a strong mobile signal.

The future of mobility is one of the UK government’s Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges, and this project will help ensure this critical technology is developed in Harwell, bringing expertise, jobs and growth to the UK.”

Daniela Petrovic, Darwin Innovation Group co-founder said: “Our team at Harwell (Science and Technology Facilities Campus) is thrilled to gather key innovation partners like Telefonica, UK Space Agency and ESA, together with a number of start-ups from Oxfordshire with whom we have longstanding relationships, to join forces in this exciting innovation. Our aim is that Mobility as a Service (MaaS) developed by project DARWIN will benefit society in multiple ways: by creating new apprenticeships in this newly developing area, informing policies and regulations related to connected and autonomous vehicles, and creating a new industry vertical”

Earlier this year O2 announced that its 5G network would power autonomous vehicle testing at the Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire.

Leave a Comment